I was reading about Kalief Browder
, who at the age of 16 was incarcerated for 3 years in New York after having been accused of a robbery which he denied committing. Due to backlogs in the court system and multiple delays requested by the prosecutors, he never even got to have a trial during that whole time. During his imprisonment, he was beaten by guards and fellow inmates, and spent a lot of time in solitary confinement. He was finally released after prosecutors admitted that they had lost contact with the man who had accused him of the crime. After being released, Kalief suffered mental illness and ended up committing suicide two years later.
2 years and 10 months after being jailed, a judge had offered to release Kalief based on the time he had already served, if he plead guilty to two misdemeanors. Kalief refused. How many other people, even if innocent, would refuse that? How many people, after having been wrongly jailed for almost 3 years and having a chance to finally go free, would trust the system enough to want to risk being wrongly convicted and incarcerated for another 10 years? And yet, pleading guilty will result in a criminal record, and will make it difficult for you to get a job or to get an apartment for the rest of your life, and will make people think that you got what you deserved (rather than recognizing the horrible injustice you suffered). You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
And that is only one small aspect of how our criminal justice system is not working like it should.
Innocent until proven guilty is a myth, isn't it?
How many innocent people are jailed or put to death?
How much racial disparity is there in arrests and convictions?
How many people commit minor misdemeanors and end up having to pay huge fees and court costs?
How does our justice system reform criminals? How many people who serve time are actually less likely to commit another crime afterwards, versus more likely?
How many people who commit crimes aren't ever even charged, convicted, or jailed?
How much likelier is it for you to have access to a good defense attorney and to be exonerated of a crime, when you are rich versus poor?
If you are convicted of a serious crime, how likely is it for you to be released before you've served your whole sentence, because keeping you in prison costs too much?
When the government hands over the running of prisons to private companies who are only interested in making money, how can we ensure that these companies uphold minimum standards and respect the inmates' human rights?
How can we expect people who have served their time to move on to a law-abiding life, when their criminal record makes it hard for them to get a job? Yet, can you blame people for not wanting to hire ex-cons? Especially when the criminal justice system isn't focused on reforming criminals, but rather on punishing them and turning them into more hardened criminals?
I was reading about VoIP. Neither VoIP nor cell-phones allow you to receive incoming collect calls. That must make it difficult for a lot of inmates to call home. If their friends and family can't afford land-lines, how can the inmates call home? I did a search and found that there is a service
that allows you to get a phone number whereby collect calls can be redirected to your cellphone or VoIP phone number. The website doesn't at all mention how much this service costs, which makes me think that it must be expensive.
I was further struck by this entry in the website FAQ:
If the prison specifically prohibits calls to cell phones, third-party or relayed calls, can I still us Just Talk?
Yes. Just Talk has a VOIP service that can offer significant savings while still complying with prison regulations prohibiting calls to cell phones, for third-party or relayed calls, such as the Arizona Department of Corrections order 1.4.2.
So most prisons only allow outgoing collect calls, but some also
restrict you from using this kind of service to call a cell phone? Why??? I looked up information on these Arizona Dept. of Corrections rules
The document indicates:
Inmates may not have a telephone card or cell phone and do not have access to email.
Inmates may only call people on their visitation list - this list may contain up to 20 people.
Before any of these people are allowed to visit or be called, they have to submit an application and be approved, a process which takes 40 to 60 days and requires a $25 background check fee.
These are not allowed: "Calls that are relayed from the number called to another number (i.e., third party calls), credit card calls and calls to 800 and 900 phone numbers."
In retrospect, I suppose those kind of calls are not allowed as it would be too easy to transfer a cell phone (etc.) to someone *not* on the approved visitation list.
Then I found this 2011 article, Prisons seek ally in crackdown on cellphones
. Apparently, a lot of inmates are getting their hands on contraband cell phones. The prisons want to install equipment to block the cell phone signals, so that inmates will be forced to use the official pay phones provided for outgoing calls.
There's another issue. Why can't prisons even prevent inmates from getting their hands on contraband items? How many prison employees are illicitly making money by providing these contraband items to the inmates?
Why can't prisons prevent inmate-on-inmate violence?